Image-maker Hugh Roberts (@split.milk) specialises in creating dynamic collages. Using found materials, comic books and photography, his work combines images with stark contrasts to provoke thought and generate new narratives and relationships. With an eclectic mix of old and new, his art feels visceral, timeless and vaguely familiar to the viewer, encouraging conversation into the unusual.
Reflecting on the year that has passed, Hugh curated his work into a new zine entitled Tired Of Hanging Around. The 48 page collection of photographs, illustrations and other selected works covers a variety of topics focuses upon the cadence of events throughout 2020. We caught up with Hugh to hear his thoughts and motivations behind the project.
What inspired you to produce this zine?
I’ve wanted to put a book or zine together for ages, mainly to produce something physical I can interact with. It's refreshing to see the work in a different format and to build a narrative link throughout. A zine is also a good way of sharing my work in an accessible way.
Around November, I went back through my work and found some fun links that told a story about how the year progressed. Weirdly, it began with the image you see at the end of the zine. It delivers a humorous twist that I like to throw into my work - it helps tie the zine together rather than it being just a collection work.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process?
My creative process generally depends on the content I'm producing - certain mediums seem more fitting for specific ideas. A lot of the time my work is based around collage, taking old and new elements to create fun, new narrative interactions between pieces of imagery. Content-wise I'm generally just responding to my surroundings and ideas that can range from personal to political. I think it’s important to make work responding to the world and making sense of the chaos and silliness. This process is quite subversive, in both how I handle the content or themes of the work and the imagery used to deliver that.
You’ve sold a few already - how does it feel knowing your work is on the coffee tables, shelves and walls of people you may not even know?
It’s a great feeling, it’s also giving me a great reason to get out and cycle around the city delivering them. I did free screen prints for the first 10 orders, which was fun to rock up and surprise someone with a mystery print. Anyone who makes and shares something will say it’s really satisfying knowing someone is enjoying a piece of work you made. I’m happy with that.
You mentioned this book is a collection of work that reflects on the past year. How do you think your work had evolved across the year?
I can feel things starting to come together more but I'm still really just finding my feet. After graduating and having a lot of time at home it’s been a bit of a blessing. I am getting the time to try things out and experiment that I didn’t in my last year of uni. I’ve started drawing again and finding that evermore consuming at the moment. In terms of how I've evolved? I guess I'm just getting to know my work better, it seems to be paying off.
Your work is often in black and white with a signature splash of neon. What role does colour play in your work?
The strictness of the use of black and white is generally process lead, working with old illustrations or photographs I have no choice but I enjoy this restriction. It routes the work in a place closer to old punk graphics and DIY design. Simple blackwork is something I really dig, weather that’s illustration or tattoos I like the stripped-back refined look. I'm still coming to terms with where colour fits into my work, It all depends on the piece. I generally leave colour to my painting practice, reworking the small collages into large scale colourful compositions.
Your work often has political or satirical undertones. How did the political landscape of last year affect the messages of your work?
It definitely put fuel on the fire. I felt like I wanted to respond to every piece of news that came out. It became pretty overwhelming and I began to make more abstract work probably to get away from it all. The satirical work came from a bunch of experiments on the side that came together in ‘Four Horsemen of 2020’. It was a lot of fun and posed some interesting challenges. The zine brings this side of my practice into context nicely alongside other different works.
Do you have any ideas you’re excited about for this next year?
It’s hard to plan for much, but I'm keen to keep chipping away at things. Painting is a big thing I want to work on; I made some great pieces towards the end of last year and it can offer more freedom than collage work. Drawing has become a bigger part of what I’m working on so it’ll be fun to see where this goes. I’ve done more commissions recently for EPs which has been dope, so If anyone’s working on something and wants to collaborate hit me up.
Follow Hugh's creative work on Instagram
Get your copy of 'Tired Of Hanging Around' here
Interview by Meg Firth